§ MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the judgment of Mr. Justice Bigham, delivered on the 5th instant, in the case of Fraces, Times, and Co. v. the Sea Insurance Company, Limited, in which the learned judge mentioned found that the import of arms (into Persia) was not illegal according to the law of Persia as that law was administered in practice and enjoined, and the export of arms from England to Persia was certainly not contrary to our law; and whether, having regard to this judgment, Her Majesty's Government will consider the question of compensating the owners of the cargo of arms and ammunition stopped in transition on board the Beluchistan on 24th January by the commander of Her Majesty's ship Lapwing, and the owners of the arms and ammunition stored in Bushire which were seized and confiscated by Her Majesty's Consul-General in December, 1897, and by him handed over to the Persian authorities after they had passed the Persian customs, and duties upon them had been paid to and received by the Persian, authorities to whom they were so handed over?
I have seen the report of the judgment in question, but I do not 282 think that its purport can be correctly estimated by the quotation of a single sentence from it. The learned judge found that there was something in the nature of a prohibition against the importation of arms into Persia, and that the plaintiffs probably knew of it; but that the circumstances as known to them were not material to the defendants in estimating the risk. The facts are not correctly stated in the second Question. The arms and ammunition stored in Bushire were not seized and confiscated by Her Majesty's Consul-General, who could have no authority to take such a step on Persian soil. They were seized by an official of the Persian Government, and the British Vice-Consul was present because the goods were in the possession of British subjects. Her Majesty's Government see no ground for interference unless, in the case of any of the arms seized either at Muscat or Bushire, the owners or consignees can prove that the arms were proceeding to or had entered Persia with the authority of the Persian Government, and the parties concerned have been advised, if they can produce such proofs, to represent their claims to the Consular authorities.
§ MR. LOWE (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
Is the right honourable Gentleman aware that Mr. Justice Bigham declared that the importation of arms into Persia was not illegal according to the law of Persia?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The honourable Member is arguing the question; if he wishes further information he must give notice.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
Am I to understand that the right honourable Gentleman contests the lawfulness of the trade?
Her Majesty's Government have always held the opinion, which I have more than once stated in the House, that the importation of arms and ammunition into Persia is illicit, and it is upon that assumption they have proceeded.